Davy Fitzgerald calls for referees to let the game flow

Wexford boss concerned by the pattern of high free counts in recent games

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald has claimed that fussy refereeing has brought the game close to "crisis", pointing to a worrying pattern of high free counts in big games.

A whopping 50 frees were awarded by Johnny Murphy in Wexford's Allianz League win over Dublin last weekend while 42 were called during Limerick's clash with Cork.

It contrasted with last summer's Leinster championship round robin game between Wexford and Dublin, a tie in which Fitzgerald estimated the free count was "'barely into double figures".

The Clare legend noted pointedly that the ref that day, Fergal Horgan, didn't get another game in the Championship.

Asked if he feels Croke Park chiefs are behind a clampdown, Fitzgerald smiled for several seconds before eventually declining to answer.

“I think the game has been incredible, I think the last few years have given us the Munster championship of two years ago and the Leinster championship last year,” said Fitzgerald.

“I think they were phenomenal, so why are we now in crisis? Why is the game in danger? Sure there is only one denominator – the free count. That’s what the denominator is. When our game is let flow, I think it’s a great game.”

The Leinster-title winning Model County boss said he didn’t wish to slate Murphy personally though concluded “that was not the way to referee the game the other night”.

Fitzgerald reckoned it must have been a “100 per cent” turn off for fans and neutrals looking on with 16 cards dished out in the tie, 13 yellows and three reds.

One of those reds went to Conor McDonald for a strike on Paddy Smyth though Wexford are appealing that decision.

Fitzgerald said he’s aware of most referees and their characteristics before games and “had a fair idea what was going to happen” last weekend.

He wants GAA chiefs to allow refs more discretion to let the game flow, like Tipperary's Horgan did last summer during their draw with Kilkenny.

Pretty emotional

“Did Fergal make any blatantly bad calls? I don’t think so,” said Fitzgerald. “Is that not kind of what we’re about? You’re not looking for the referee to be allowed go AWOL and do what he wants but if there’s balance on both sides and he’s not favouring a side and he’s letting both things go in the same way, I’m good with that.”

Speaking at the launch of the Chadwicks Wexford Park naming rights deal, Fitzgerald also revealed he was "100 per cent gone" as manager after last year's championship due to personal reasons before performing a dramatic 11th hour u-turn.

“A text and a call that I got just put something in my head and I remember going home to Sharon on the Wednesday night and I was pretty emotional and I said, ‘I just can’t go, I just can’t go’,” he said.

“It was very emotional I tell you, because they have been very good with me. I think you see I’ve clicked with this crowd here 100 per cent. I hope it lasts. I don’t know if things like that ever last but it feels pretty good.”

The Sixmilebridge man confirmed he will continue as coach with his local club who are reigning Clare champions.

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